Hudson Valley County Executives Urge President, Congress to Provide $12B to Prevent MTA Cuts

Real Estate In-Depth | September 2020

GOSHEN—County Executives from Orange, Putnam, Dutchess Rockland, and Westchester counties are urging President Donald Trump and leaders of Congress to provide $12 billion in funding to avert drastic service cuts and the elimination of commuter rail service in some sections of the Hudson Valley by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

On Sept. 22, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, Putman County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Westchester County Executive George Latimer sent the letter to President Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calling for the $12 billion in transit funding for the region.

Chief officials of the MTA have been making repeated calls for federal funding to help offset the massive revenue losses incurred by the agency due to the coronavirus pandemic. MTA Chairman Pat Foye has threatened a 50% cut in Metro North service would be necessary and that service could be eliminated altogether on its West of Hudson (Port Jervis and Pascack Valley) lines if it does not receive $12 billion in COVID aid from Congress.

“The citizens of Orange County rely on affordable and reliable mass transportation provided by the MTA,” Orange County Executive Neuhaus said. “Absent the assistance of the federal government, the MTA will be forced to reduce services and increase costs. That is an undesirable outcome that needs to be avoided at all costs.”

Back in August when it was first learned that the MTA was mulling the elimination of West of Hudson service, Rockland County Executive Day said, “We agree that the federal government needs to step in to provide stimulus funding for MTA—that is abundantly clear. The proposal to eliminate West of Hudson rail service in New York, however, would be catastrophic to Rockland and Orange Counties. If our rail service were eliminated for a mere savings of $25 million per year, there would be no reason for Rockland and Orange to even be in the MTA anymore. There is already a $40 million annual value gap between what Rockland County pays into the MTA and what it gets back in service; this has been the case for decades.” Day said that he was outraged the MTA would even consider such a proposal in spite of its fiscal woes.

Westchester County Executive Latimer said, “Our region depends on the MTA—plain and simple. The commuter rail lines carries large swaths of our workforce, both into New York City and out of it, keeping the engine of our economy going. Allowing the MTA to wither away will create far reaching economic consequences far greater than we are already experiencing today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In their letter, the county executives noted that Metro-North ridership approached 100 million annually prior to the pandemic and was the third most heavily trafficked commuter railroad in the nation. Due to the drastic decline in ridership, the county executives stated that the MTA is in drastic need of financial assistance from the federal government.

“State and county coffers have been emptied as our tax receipts plummeted alongside the fares, tolls, and other revenue streams that pay for transit service. Without emergency federal aid through a COVID stimulus package, the MTA is contemplating slashing services in half, eliminating service entirely in two of our counties and decimating it in the remaining three,” the County Executives stated in the letter. “In this unacceptable scenario, thousands of transit workers would suffer layoffs and hundreds of thousands of commuters would be left stranded or struggling onto chronically delayed, crowded, and poorly maintained trains.”

They added that a decimated MTA would also have dire economic consequences on the Hudson Valley region as well as to the U.S. economy.

“Our region’s suburban economy will be placed in the most serious jeopardy, with national and even global implications. Every $1 billion invested in transit nationally drives $5 billion in growth in GDP, the reverse is also true that the lack of this funding will be a multiplier in shrinking our national GDP,” they stated. “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority drives as much as 10% of the nation’s GDP.”

Last week, Chairman Foye spoke of the MTA’s dire financial outlook and sent letters to the authority’s 11 largest suppliers, warning that without an immediate injection of $12 billion in federal aid all current and future contracts with companies from Kentucky to California are in jeopardy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a horrific toll in human, social and economic terms across the nation,” Chairman Foye said. “I am writing to alert you that because of this financial devastation, many current and all future contracts are in jeopardy without an injection of $12 billion in emergency federal aid. Let me be clear: federal funding for mass transit isn’t a red or blue issue—it’s a jobs issue. Our future—and the fate of approximately 100,000 MTA-created out-of-state jobs—rests squarely in the hands of the Senate and White House.”

Since 2011, the MTA has created as many as 100,000 out-of-state jobs in nearly all 50 states. MTA capital expenditures are among the nation’s largest drivers of economic activity, generating nearly $50 billion in infrastructure investment nationwide. Additionally, hundreds of medium and smaller-sized suppliers, including MWBE firms, will also be impacted if the MTA does not receive federal assistance, the MTA stated.